A SPASTIC is one who suffers from cerebral palsy, an impairment of the muscle control centres of the brain, rendering ordinary activities like speaking, swallowing and walking very difficult. More often than not, a narrow social outlook is responsible for the isolated existence of these children affected by this condition.
But there are a number of organisations determined to make life for spastics a happy and creative one.The Spastics Society of India, with branches in Delhi, Bombay, Madras and Calcutta, recognises the importance of empowering the challenged, in order to involve them in decision-making. This organisation trains the challenged in jobs they can take up to provide for themselves and gain a modicum of independence in adulthood.
Resource centres manufacture low-cost furniture and other aids carefully designed to meet the requirements of each handicapped person. Children under their care for 8-10 years, and those who have the potential, are encouraged to acquire post-graduate and professional qualifications. Charity begins at home: the families of spastic children are integrated into the rebabilitation programmes via home management projects.
The Spastics Society of Northern India (SSNI) at Delhi has also launched the Dayal rural project in which all these services are made available to 37 villages in Haryana. For this purpose, it has been granted 2 acres of panchayat land by the community. SSNI's School of Rehabilitation Sciences prepares rehabilitation workers for rural and urban areas through primary level, post-graduate and specialised short courses. The society in Bombay, the flagship, is now concentrating on job development for adult spastics. The Calcutta branch specialises in speech therapy programmes. The Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy is an autonomous wing of this branch. Its main objectives are to undertake humanpower development, conduct research and develop service models for the cerebral palsied in urban, semi-urban and rural areas.
Last December, the Spastics Society of Tamil Nadu organised Confluences, the 7th national seminar on multiple disability. Co-sponsored by UNICEF, Action Aid and the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, it was a pioneering experiment.
An increase in government support to the cause of spastics is both desirable and necessary, but will not suffice to combat a problem of such immense dimensions. Spastics have minds that work but bodies that can't. Many of them are not even aware of the possibilities lying untapped within them. The community amidst which the cerebral palsied must live and work has to come forward and help spastics to help themselves.